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Robert Wheeler

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  1. Some weeks ago, I asked for help identifying a female mallard-like duck that looked definitely different from nearby obvious mallards. The bill was dark, the face had well-defined dark and light stripes, the neck seemed longer and more erect. The resulting discussion rapidly expanded, with some opinions favoring garganey and many others favoring mallard. As original poster, I had been asked to post the results from Washington state bird experts when available. However, the original thread ended up locked. Perhaps the moderator could post a link to the thread since it had photos. I thought some of you would be interested that members of the Washington Bird Records Committee concluded I observed and photographed a Mallard x Pacific Black Duck hybrid, and provided links to resources with some pictures and videos remarkable similar to what I saw: https://ebird.org/species/x00458, and https://ebird.org/checklist/S64822797. They apparently consider this not rare, and there was mention of the likely interbreeding of wild ducks with escapees from domestic-raised duck populations. Nevertheless, their comment was “that is a very interesting duck indeed.”
  2. When in doubt, seek more data. My hobby is photography rather than birding. Have not yet had a response for local rare bird experts, and I would need help figuring out how to contact an eBird person for input. My photo process is to ingest the memory card images, delete badly out of focus ones, sort poor shots into an "outtakes" folder, then process the remaining better images in more detail. In this case, I went back to the outtakes. And I found more data! Apologies for not thinking of that source sooner. One of the pictures, with the female head away from us and in shade, shows the speculum. Cropping way in and cranking the exposure way up reveals the colored part is blue. That favors mallard of course. You may not be able to see the color very clearly online. The leading-edge white band looks like the other mallards in the nearby pond, but the trailing white band behind the speculum is barely present, much thinner than on the more typical female mallards on the next pond. In two of the outtakes, there is a glimpse of orange through the water right where the leg/foot should be (vaguely visible in this posted image). Mallard (or mix) more likely now. Size comparison? The other female mallards were at a nearby pond rather than in East Biddle Lake with this one, making size comparison just a wild guess; perhaps this one is a little smaller than the obvious female mallards half mile away. In the outtakes, two of the juveniles have dark beaks on close examination, but the third juvenile has splotches of yellow when magnified. The juvenile mallards on the nearby pond were smaller and younger appearing and had much more orange in their beaks and much lighter feather color overall. I don't know if anyone is expert in juvenile garganey identification, but absence of a white area where the side of the beak joins the cheek apparently leans the ID toward mallard. This female dabbled without tipping her bottom up (while the other females in the next pond often put full bottom up). She held her neck higher and thinner than the females in the other pond. Her feathers looked mallard-like to me, but I was concerned about the beak color and facial markings. My original question: is this within the normal variability of mallard, has been answered with yes. But the discussion has been very interesting, and the identification has not been entirely obvious to everyone. Thanks for all the responses. If I see a male garganey in that pond anytime soon, I'll let you know. Robert Wheeler
  3. Glad to have the additional cautionary comments. Looks like eBird only allows submission of photos along with a submitted checklist. I am reluctant to contaminate the database with a possible Garganey if it is really a mallard or mallard cross. Will wait for input from WA rare bird folks before coming to a firmer conclusion. Thanks.
  4. Wow. Thank you all. Meanwhile, I found a Washington state rare bird alert site. This would be the first listing of garganey for Clark County, WA (and breeding at that), although the species has been reported rarely in other WA counties. I have asked the state experts to weigh in as well. Since they are recorded as breeding in Canada, I suppose climate change might be changing their range. I will look into how reporting happens on eBird.
  5. On 5/16/21 mid-afternoon at East Biddle Lake Vancouver, WA, this female dabbling duck with three younger ducks was swimming at the edge of the shallow pond close to the vegetation. Dabbling involved horizontal thrusts rather than full bottom-up action typical of mallards. Typical mallard females and chicks were present in the western Biddle Lake nearby. They had beaks with more yellow and faces with very thin dark lines through the eyes. This bird looked different, with mostly dark bill with tip a shade of grey. The face has a thicker dark line through the eye and a dark cheek line horizontal from the edge of the bill. Pictures of female garganey ducks seem to fit, but that would be quite rare here. I suppose female cinnamon teal or female blue-winged teal might be possible. Is this within the usual variability of mallards? Is it a garganey? Thanks, Robert Wheeler.
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